Dáil Éireann - Volume 346 - 24 November, 1983

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Handicapped Adults Residential Accommodation.

11. Mr. M. Barrett (Dublin North West) asked the Minister for Health if provision will be made for additonal residential places for handicapped adults in domestic scale dwellings on the north side of Dublin; if a site for such dwellings will be made available on the land attached to St. Michael's House, Ballymun Road, Dublin 13 which is the property of the Eastern Health Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. B. Desmond: A planning brief for a development including additional residential places for adult mentally handicapped on the site in question on Ballymun Road has been submitted to my Department for approval. The question of approval to this brief is being considered in the context of the total capital resources available to my Department for the planning and building of major new projects.

[306] Mr. Barrett (Dublin North-West): Would the Minister give an indication of the possibility of such a residence being built there? Is he aware of the many physically handicapped people who at present live in accommodation which is completely unsuitable? Is he also aware that the Irish Wheelchair Association have recently issued a booklet? With your permission, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I will read the second paragraph of the introduction. It is very brief.

An Leas-Chean Comhairle: Just a small section.

Mr. Barrett (North-West): It is a very small section:

Much of the current system of residential care stems from the 19th century poor law thinking and should be replaced by a more enlightened and caring approach. Few can escape responsibility for the conditions under which the residents exist. We have an obligation to correct the defects which exist today and to bring a greater awareness to statutory and government authorities.

Mr. B. Desmond: I assure the Deputy that in any framework of policy decisions that I have to make in relation to the health services units of this nature will get absolute priority even if other areas have to go without, particularly on the acute hospital side. I hope to transfer into my programme expenditure areas as quickly as possible moneys for basic services as outlined in the Deputy's question. I accept that in the Eastern Health Board area there is a critical shortage of mental handicap facilities and that has been discussed with the board on a number of occasions. I think in 1984 I will be able to relieve some of that shortage particularly in the Cheeverstown area.

Miss Flaherty: Would the Minister indicate to us the number of places made available in that centre in the last year? Further, would he indicate when the opening of the first of these residential [307] units by the previous Minister for Health took place and how long a delay there was in opening and making available the residential units which I believe were made available during our ministry in the last seven or eight months?

Mr. B. Desmond: One of the things which gave me particular satisfaction was to accept and fully approve the outgoing Government's decision to exempt certain youth priority projects in the terms of the public sector recruitment embargo that was confirmed in December 1982. That included commissioning the remaining 30 places of the 50 residential places in Ballymun. That unit is now fully operational, so progress has been made in that area and I assure the Deputy that I will be most anxious to provide further additional resources in 1984. However, as I indicated to Deputy Barrett, my priority in that area would be to ensure the opening of the Cheeverstown end which should be coming on stream in 1984.